As the Pew Research Center recently reported, the use of Social Media has grown dramatically during the past decade. Today, Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can impact work, politics and civic life in ways we would have never imagined back in 2005.
However, as lawyers at Tate Law Offices, who are highly familiar with how insurance companies operate in Texas, we must warn you: Social Media use can also affect your personal injury claim.
Pew: Nearly Two-Thirds of U.S. Adults Use Social Media Sites
In October, the Pew Research Center released its annual Social Media report. For the first time, Pew reported figures for Social Media use among all American adults and not just Internet users.
According to Pew, nearly two-thirds of the country’s adults – 65 percent – say they use Social Media today. Back in 2005, when Pew first began tracking Social Media usage, that number was at only 7 percent.
People of all ages are using Social Media, too. While 90 percent of those ages 18 to 29 said they were users, 35 percent of those age 65 and older said they use Social Media, too, or nearly triple the number from 2005.
If you are a plaintiff who is seeking to recover needed medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other losses in a personal injury claim, however, you may want to think twice – or at least think carefully – about your use of Social Media sites.
Here are five tips we hope you consider:
Stay away from Social Media altogether until your case is over.
If you were a habitual Social Media user before getting into an accident and deciding to take legal action, it may be tough for you to quit “cold turkey.” Still, staying away from Social Media altogether may be the safest thing to do.The reality is that insurance companies (specifically, their attorneys) tend to mine Social Media sites for information about plaintiffs. They usually are looking for evidence that can cast doubt on a plaintiff’s claim about his or her injuries.For instance, if you post a picture of you going horseback riding in the Hill Country just a few weeks after your crash, it could seriously undermine any claims you may make about your mental anguish or pain and suffering.In fact, in a book published by the American Bar Association, the authors described Social Media sites as “evidentiary gold mines.”For this reason, our attorneys suggest staying away from Social Media altogether until your case is resolved through a settlement or verdict.
If you do use Social Media, don’t discuss your accident or your case.
We often tell our clients to never give a recorded statement to an insurance company. This is because anything you say could – and typically will – be used against you. The same goes for Social Media sites.Don’t tweet or post any messages about your accident or injuries. For instance, you may want your Facebook friends to know that you are “fine” after a being in a car crash. An insurance company could twist that message and assert that you are not really hurt.Also, don’t talk about the details of your case. If you tweet a message such as, “The insurance company is about to settle,” you may ultimately jeopardize that settlement.
Watch out when posting other Social Media content.
As we stated above, insurance companies mine Social Media for anything they can use to deny or minimize their payout in an accident claim.So, any photos, videos or messages you put on Social Media sites could hurt your case – even those items that do not directly deal with your case. In other words, that picture you post on Facebook of you in your costume at a Halloween party could come back to haunt you.
Use privacy settings on all Social Media sites.
Switching to privacy settings is another way to protect yourself if you continue to use Social Media while your personal injury case is pending. For example, both Facebook and Twitter allow you to adjust your accounts to “private.” We suggest doing so right away.You can also use “tag review” on Facebook. This feature gives you the ability to approve or reject “tags” that other users want to attach to your posts. On Twitter, you can block others from “retweeting” your messages.Finally, we urge you: Don’t become Facebook “friends” with strangers. Those strangers could be insurance company investigators who are looking for evidence.
Don’t delete your accounts or material on your accounts.
You may be nervous about content you have put on your Social Media accounts in the past now that you are involved in a personal injury case. However, if you delete your accounts or content, the insurance company may allege “spoliation of evidence.” Leave it alone. You can’t change the past, but you can be more careful about how you use Social Media in the future.
Contact Tate Law Offices: Ft. Worth Car Accident Lawyers
The attorneys of Tate Law Offices strive to maximize the value of our clients’ claims. We hope you follow these Social Media tips, which can play a larger role than you might imagine in maximizing your claim yourself. If you would like a personal injury case review with our firm, please contact us and receive a free consultation.